For nearly the last decade and a half, Brad Marchand overcame quite a few of hurdles en route to becoming one of the league’s elite talents.
For one, the Boston Bruins selected him in the third round of the 2006 selection. While plenty of diamonds in the rough came out of the later rounds throughout NHL history, few scouts likely projected Marchand as a top-six commodity.
Sure, Marchand showcased his scoring touch in the junior hockey ranks. He followed up with two productive seasons in Providence during his initial stint with the organization. But anything beyond a bottom-six energy role seemed unlikely once he earned a full-time roster spot in Boston under former coach Claude Julien during the 2010-11 season.
His career trajectory took an unexpected turn during his rookie campaign. Marchand went from donning a Merlot practice sweater with fellow fourth-liners Shawn Thornton and Gregory Campbell to wearing a jersey of a different eye-popping color next to Patrice Bergeron and Mark Recchi. Between Bergeron’s two-way prowess, Recchi’s veteran presence and Marchand’s work ethic, the trio provided multiple timely moments on the B’s run to their first Stanley Cup triumph in 39 years.
“He’s the perfect example of when you have will and skill, you can really climb the ladder in this league,” current Boston coach Jim Montgomery said of Marchand. “He started off as a guy [who] played in Providence, fourth line [in Boston], and then he becomes a first line and first power-play [player]. It’s all because of his determination and his professionalism to his craft. It’s unbelievable to be around true pros like that.”
Through all his determination to stand above his peers, Marchand needed time to shed his reputation around the league.
He had been under a microscope since he agitated the Canucks during that heated 2011 Stanley Cup Final. The scene of Marchand using Daniel Sedin as a proverbial punching bag in Game 6 provided one of hockey’s earliest trending moments of the social media era.
Afterward, Marchand simply said he kept punching Sedin because “he felt like it.” Two days later, Marchand and the Bruins hoisted the Stanley Cup in hostile territory.
Marchand earned his first and only championship ring at just 24 years of age. His scoring production increased yearly, with the lockout-shortened 2013 season marking the only time he didn’t tally 20 goals in a campaign.
As his goals and assists continued to uptick, so too, did the fines, suspensions and numerous other controversial moments.
From low-bridging Sami Salo in 2012 to a head hit on Marcus Johansson in 2018, Marchand earned 17 games worth of suspensions and compiled $22,500 in additional fines during that six-year stretch. Then came the licking incidents involving Leo Komarov and Ryan Callahan during the first two rounds of the 2018 playoffs.
At that point, Marchand knew things needed to change. That’s where another former coach of Marchand’s entered the fray.
Before Bruce Cassidy entered his second full season behind the Boston bench, Marchand stopped by his North Shore house for an insightful discussion. Among the topics of conversation: how Marchand wanted to view his legacy.
After all, Marchand had already achieved a career’s worth of accolades to that point. He developed into one of the league’s elite two-way wingers and represented his country in the 2016 World Cup and numerous IIHF world championships.
“Over the years, and when I got to be the head coach in Boston, we were able to communicate, and we had a real good relationship,” Cassidy said after guiding his current team, the Vegas Golden Knights, to a 2-1 overtime win over the Bruins on Jan. 12.
“It was well documented. He came over to the house one day in the off-season, and we had a sit-down and [talked about] his legacy and what he wanted it to be. Because he was becoming an elite player — Hockey Canada… and a Stanley Cup with the Bruins — and to temper some of the emotion from the undiscipline into channeling it into a positive.”
Since that conversation with Cassidy, Marchand has become more of an asset and less of a liability. And while he encountered two more hearings from the NHL Player Safety Department, resulting in a pair of suspensions in the 2021-22 campaign, the veteran winger transformed his image from “Little Ball of Hate” into a reliable leader within Boston’s core.
Of course, Marchand developed significant knowledge from Bergeron and Zdeno Chara as he matured into a leadership role. After learning from two of Boston’s top captains in franchise history, Marchand earned his full circle moment when the Bruins put the ‘C’ on his home, visiting and alternate centennial sweaters for the 2023-24 season.
But just as he needed time to shed his image, Marchand admitted to encountering an adjustment period during the beginning stages as captain. Eventually, he fully engrained himself into his new role both on and off the ice.
“I was really overthinking it early on. I wanted to try to do a little bit too much,” Marchand said of his initial adjustment to the captaincy. “I think the biggest thing is everyone leads their own way. The way I saw Zee lead and Bergy lead, they kind of did it their own way. I was trying to be a little bit too much like both of them.”
In a way Marchand returned to his roots.
His words carry enough weight in and of itself. But Marchand’s work ethic resonated throughout Boston’s locker room.
Like Marchand with Bergeron and Chara, Charlie McAvoy and David Pastrnak — serving their first seasons as alternate captains — have a front-row seat to learn from Boston’s top wingers in franchise history.
“His career is amazing really. He’s not the guy who went first overall who was destined for greatness, and I think that’s why his story is so incredible because he worked for everything he got,” McAvoy said. “And what he is now is a product of that work and sort of finding what he can do and then never being satisfied with how he got he was. He’s still the hardest worker that I’ve ever played with.”
“What I noticed is how hard he works at it. He spends every day learning, which is amazing after all these years. He’s definitely trying to learn every day, and that’s classic Marshy,” Pastrnak added. “His work ethic on and of the ice is amazing, and you know he’s going to find his way in any way possible that he can, and he’s doing that every day.”
Marchand’s teammates aren’t the only ones who noticed how his skillset compliments his hard work habits.
Beyond the Boston confines, Marchand always took the “hardest working guy” mantra to heart. Avs forward Nathan MacKinnon witnessed Marchand’s habits while they trained together in their home country during their off-seasons.
“He’s the hardest worker I’ve ever seen,” MacKinnon said ahead of the first Boston-Colorado matchup. “In the summers, obviously during the season as well, but I don’t see that stuff. But he’s always in great shape and takes his career very seriously. He’s the captain there for a reason and I think he’s earned that.”
He’s one of those players every team hates to play against yet would love to have him on their side. And now Marchand has franchise accolades to back that up.
Barring a late injury, Marchand will skate in his 1,000th NHL game Tuesday night. In his first season as captain, he’s compiled numerous milestones.
Boston’s captain leapfrogged Rick Middleton into fifth place on the team’s all-time points list during his two-goal outing in Denver on Jan. 9. Nearly two weeks later, he surpassed Ray Bourque into the top five on the franchise’s goal leaders with an overtime winner in Ottawa.
Entering the weekend, Marchand sits three goals shy of 400. Through it all, he appreciates every accolade but has his sights set on better team-wide accomplishments.
“Being in this league, I never expected that I have the kind of career that I’ve had to come this far,” Marchand said. “I’m proud of it, but it’s almost like a stepping stone. It’s not where I want to finish, and I don’t want to have it end there.”
That next goal would be hoisting another Cup before his career ends.
Marchand will turn 36 in May but isn’t showing any sign of declining during a transitional season. He’ll enter the 2024-25 campaign in the final year of his current $6.125 million contract.
He’ll also enter his second season without Bergeron. But like his growth from a checking line winger into a dangerous top-six weapon, Marchand continues to thrive no matter who he skates with.
“I enjoyed my time with Brad,” Cassidy said. “Great to see his growth as a fourth-line guy coming in into a truly elite offensive player and a full 200-foot player. So my hat goes off to him and the work he puts in.”
Tim Rosenthal serves as the Managing Editor of Bruins Daily. He started contributing videos to the site in 2010 before fully coming on board during the Bruins' Stanley Cup run in 2011. His bylines over the last decade have been featured on Boston.com, FoxSports.com, College Hockey News, Patch and Inside Hockey. You can follow Tim on Twitter @_TimRosenthal.
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